The UKGC has published its annual report for the 2022/23 period, and there are some fascinating nuggets of information to be gleaned from it.
The governing body was particularly pleased with its own efficiency improvements, but other aspects surrounding gambling participation and problem gambling, perhaps, made for the most interesting read.
The main trends
The report contains a summary of the work done by the Gambling Commission over the previous year, as well as an overview of trends in the British gambling industry and a roundup of key facts and figures.
A whopping two-fifths of adults in Britain regularly gamble, amounting to 23.6 million individuals (including around 8 million National Lottery players). Participation in gambling rose from 42.6% in 2021 to 44.4%, illustrating a healthy incline in the number of newcomers.
In terms of online versus in-person betting, the split is fairly even, with in-person punters (27%) just slightly outnumbering their online counterparts (26%).
The post-COVID shift
The UK’s gross gambling yield (GGY) was up by 10.9% for the period, reaching £14bn, but the GGY generated by the online gambling industry dropped by 6% to £6bn. As this would suggest, online participation dropped and in-person participation rose.
The increase in in-person betting suggests that the industry has recovered from the negative impact of COVID-19 and that the decrease in the online sector may be the result of punters returning to brick-and-mortar casinos post-lockdown.
The physical gambling sector appears to have made a heroic recovery from the crippling effects of lockdown, reclaiming a substantial number of its consumers.
UKGC Funding and Operations
The Commission has reported a rise in its income to £26m, which is £6m more than in the previous year, the vast majority of which comes from licence fees. A further £22.5m was generated from GIA funding for the National Lottery.
It granted 1,900 personal licences and 150 operator licences, with application fees amounting to £2m of its income. The total number of licensed operators now sits at around 2,400.
Breaking down the UKGC’s 2022-23 income by sector, just 4% came from bingo, 4% from arcades, 6% from lotteries, 24% from machines, 29% from casinos and 33% from betting.
UKGC operating costs were around £41m, which is £4m less than in the previous year.
The report offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the Commission itself, claiming a 10% increase in staff engagement, an upturn in staff retention, and accreditations declaring it to be a great place to work.
Regarding its strategy for the future, the UKGC report highlights the five main priorities that inform its activities:
- Protecting children and vulnerable people
- Promoting a fairer market and more informed consumers
- Keeping crime out of gambling
- Optimising returns to fund good causes through the National Lottery (which generated £1.79bn in the 2022-23 period)
- Improving gambling regulation
Problem gambling and the ongoing legislative review
The UKGC is responsible for monitoring the extent of problem gambling in Britain, and its report states that the number of problem gamblers has remained relatively stable across the year.
As a percentage of the entire UK’s adult population, just 0.3% are considered problem gamblers. The UKGC’s statement reiterated that there was no room for complacency, despite seemingly low figures.
“Data shows that although the vast majority do not experience gambling-related harms, there are still significant numbers of people who do encounter issues with their gambling.”
The consistency of these figures across time suggests that efforts to reduce problem gambling have at least managed to prevent a growth in the number of problem gamblers which reflects the general influx of newcomers.
These stats are likely to be cited in the discussions that are at the heart of the ongoing UK slot site legislation reform, which is prioritising restrictions intended to protect potentially vulnerable individuals.
The UKGC “took enforcement action against a total of 24 operators this past year, for breaching [their] regulatory requirements”, including £19.2m worth of penalties against William Hill alone, and £17m against Entain Plc. The main reasons given are “social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures”. The total issued for enforcement fines or regulatory settlements was £60.1m.
Regarding harmful gambling, the UKGC has work to do, but it does seem to be capable of putting its money where its mouth is and focusing on the most problematic areas.
In these economically turbulent times, in which many people have less disposable income and an amount of instability in their lives, it can be especially interesting to see how the gambling industry fares.
The industry continues to grow steadily, riding out the economic waves of recent years which have proven devastating to some other industries.
It remains to be seen how the report will influence the ongoing reform, and how effective the UKGC will be at implementing the changes it makes to legislation.
Next year’s report will likely contain some equally interesting statistics reflecting the recent rises in inflation and the current cost of living crisis. Nevertheless, the gambling industry has proven itself to be resilient and capable of impressive regeneration.